Coming on the heels of NASCAR’s new renovation taking place at Phoenix International Raceway, the sanctioning body has confirmed that the series is looking to add restrictor plates to the XFINITY Series event held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 22.
The main reason for the drastic change is simply because NASCAR officials were satisfied with an open test the series had at the Brickyard prior to the race last July.
NBC Sports reports that if all goes well, NASCAR is looking to restrict the engines in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series at Indy in 2018, in what would be the 25th running of the Brickyard 400. There are also possible changes coming being mentioned for the pair of races at Pocono Raceway, as well as Michigan International Speedway.
Of course, NASCAR is looking to better the racing and increase the excitement at these tracks, but Indianapolis seems to be a place that is a bit dangerous to test this experiment. The track has been home to some violent crashes in both the Indy 500, and in NASCAR, as Jimmie Johnson admitted that his crash in 2007 was the hardest of his career.
Having no background in gravitational fortitude, the metrics don’t seem to add up. If plate races do indeed come to these three tracks, what is NASCAR trying to gain?
Ultimately, the longest straightaways in NASCAR lie at Pocono and Indianapolis. This means these cars are hauling, when they are going into Turn 1 — and I would say Turn 3, but the Tricky Triangle has three long straightaways, which makes it even more dangerous. Many current drivers, however, have displayed their disinterest in competing at plate tracks because of the carnage it entails.
It’s understandable that NASCAR would want to make some changes to the racing at Indianapolis, because the racing recently hasn’t been all that good. However, think about some of the finishes, especially in the XFINITY Series, that track has created.
There have been five XFINITY Series races at the 2.5-mile layout, with Brad Keselowski winning the inaugural race in 2012. Sure, Kyle Busch has won three of the five events, while dominating four of them, but the fans tend to expect that when Rowdy is in the field.
In 2014, Ty Dillon picked up his solo win in the XFINITY Series by holding off Busch in the final laps. The drama at the end of the race focused on whether or not the No. 3 car had enough gas to make it to the checkered flag first.
Just a year prior Busch passed Brian Scott with a handful of laps remaining, holding off him and Joey Logano. In general, the racing has been bad at Indianapolis, but there have been some thrilling finishes, in both the XFINITY and Cup series.
Indianapolis and Pocono have one major commonality between the two, both are really flat tracks. Each of the four corners at Indy has nine degrees of banking, making it one of the shallowest tracks on the NASCAR circuit. The three turns at Pocono vary from six degrees of banking to 14 degrees of banking, still making it a one lane track.
The reason why restrictor plates work so well at Daytona International Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway is because the track is so wide, and the corners have a lot of banking. It doesn’t make much sense to try and put plates on a flat track because it doesn’t add up.
However, NASCAR is in a box because they need to try something different at Indianapolis.
The sanctioning body has made a lot of improvements to the racing over the past couple of years, but putting restrictor plates on fast flat tracks doesn’t seem to fit the mold. They were once in favor of the high-drag package as well, when most of the drivers favored less downforce, putting the racing back into the drivers hands. In doing so, the racing has improved tremendously over the past two to three years, and even when there is a “bad race” now, it’s still better than it was just a couple years ago.
In a perfect world, the prestige around Indianapolis Motor Speedway will always be there, and rightfully so. In a perfect world, NASCAR would leave the cars alone, let the Cup Series battle it out out on the famed track, and move the XFINITY Series to either the newly renovated road course, or back to Lucas Oil Raceway, where the series ran for 30 years, most recently in 2011.
Please NASCAR, make the right call.
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